The 11th annual Restore Omaha Conference and Exhibition, March 4-5, drew accolades from attendees who enjoyed the hand-on tips, the guest speakers, and the camaraderie of like-minded preservation enthusiasts.
“What a great conference! I made so many good contacts. And the enthusiasm by all really lifts my spirits,” exclaimed one attendee. “There are so many good folks out there doing such good work.”
The 2016 Conference featured a new venue at Metropolitan Community College’s Fort Omaha campus. The welcome, keynote presentation, breakout sessions, vendors and lunch were held in the Culinary Art Institute; the hands-on sessions were in the historic Mule Barn across the street.
Another new feature was a pre-conference session Friday afternoon addressing federal and state funding tools for restoring historic buildings. Speakers included Karen Garritson with the National Development Council speaking on federal and low-income tax credits, David Levy and Bob Puschendorf, speaking on state historic tax credits, and Andrea Kathol and Caitlin Kolb, sharing their work restoring four buildings using tax credits.
The opening reception brought 129 preservation-minded people together to celebrate at the Blue Lion Center at the historic 24th and Lake Streets intersection. Many attendees took REO’s North 24th Street walking tour and then enjoyed drinks and food catered by Big Mama’s Kitchen. Brigitte McQueen Shew, executive director of Union for Contemporary Arts, shared plans for the space recently occupied by her organization. REO Volunteer Linda Williams provided information about the history of the buildings.
The 11th Restore Omaha Conference opened with a session by Christian Gray, executive director of inCommon. He spoke about the importance of protecting our valuable housing stock and strengthening our older neighborhoods for the good of all. Keynote speaker Scott Sidler, with Austin Home Renovations of Orlando, Florida, talked about why preservation is important and how we need to make it happen in our own homes and neighborhoods.
The conference featured 18 breakout sessions with topics that covered researching the history of your home, maintaining historic landscapes, adhering to infill design guidelines, maintaining wood floors and old windows, as well as the latest on the restored Burlington Station.
About 30 exhibitors, including craftsmen, history organizations and business and community groups, were on hand to answer questions and share information.
Along with the sessions, craftsmen and home restoration experts demonstrated techniques and offered advice on restoring masonry, old windows, plaster and stucco. Five people presented project highlights at the concluding Restoration Jam.
Early survey results indicate a high level of satisfaction among those attending the Restore Omaha Conference and Exhibition as attendees and exhibitors. Nearly 97 percent of those answering a survey would recommend the conference to their peers. Nearly 96 percent would likely attend a future conference.
“I love old houses, old neighborhoods, old buildings,” commented one attendee. “I want to see more saved and restored. (There are) so many reasons this makes sense.” Another survey respondent noted, “It’s an inspirational conference, a great way to gain skills and ideas and meet skilled craftspeople. We have followed up with several craftsmen we met here and they have been super helpful.” Another attendee enjoyed the venue, the opening and keynote speakers, and the hands-on demonstrations in the Mule Barn.
Restore Omaha was made possible thanks to major support from AIA Omaha, Dundee Bank, NuStyle Development, Eyman Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Co. and Metropolitan Community College. REO is grateful to the 36 vendors and workshop sponsors as well as more than 50 volunteers who helped the event go smoothly. Planning has begun for the 12th event in March 2017. Anyone who wants to get involved or has a suggestion for the 2017 event can e-mail Restoration Exchange Omaha at email@example.com.